Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Horse, the Land and Sovereignty III


Something I have discussed with others is the notion of sovereignty; the contract between people and the land by which they live together and coexist. Effectively I guess you could see it as a divine tenancy agreement. We don’t however live in a world any longer here we have a single sovereign who represents the people’s place in that agreement anymore (ok, Queen Lizzie is sovereign over here but it isn’t the same thing in this context – though gods it would be good if somehow the whole land-horse-king thing slipped in somewhere in the next coronation).

With that in mind, and bearing in mind that my current ‘religious community/tribe’ is spread all over Britain, the chance to incorporate Rigantona as the one who grants sovereignty (Rosmerta fits in there somewhere, I have my suspicions) and work some kind of group ritual during which sovereignty is conferred upon us a group seems slim, and will probably not be something that can be carried out too regularly. The option now is to work on this individually; addressing my own personal sovereignty over the landscape I inhabit and work on/in.  I could for instance each year, hold a ritual whereby sacrifice is made, libations offered and Rigantona addressed to confer sovereignty to me for the coming year. In place of a king who takes the responsibility (as embodied by Lugus) it would be me taking personal responsibility. Then arises the question of worthiness.

How is worthiness to receive sovereignty judged? How is it measured?

To be honest, I don’t think it can be measured in such a way. Perhaps in the past disease, crop failure and general shitness of life in a community would be indicators that something was amiss, that the land wasn’t too happy and the land wasn’t holding up it’s end of the agreement anymore because the people had already broken their end of the bargain. Perhaps this could be looked at from a different perspective, especially for those of us who are increasingly getting their food from wild sources or growing it in a garden or allotment. How about looking at this from the other end; at the end of the year when the harvest has been successful, the eggs plentiful and the hens healthy, the brambles and damsons in abundance and perhaps the crayfish traps bursting with invasive species ready for eating, then we see that the land has been fruitful and our actions in accordance with the place gifted to us. How about we hold a ritual of sovereignty retrospectively and pre-emptively at the same time? Sort of along the lines of saying “yeah, things have been good... thanks, and we would like this to continue and as such we ask for and accept for you to grant sovereignty once again upon us”.

For our part in the complex we would need to consider how we recognise that what we have has been given to us by the land and the representation of the land we refer to as Rigantona. The obvious is to look towards living in a manner that takes into account that our lives detract from the landscape around us. We take those things we need in order to live our lives. This isn't 'bad' per se and is vital of course; we need to eat, we need to work, we need shelter. What we should really be doing is looking at the impact we have, moving from a life where we actively exploit the land with little or no thought to the consequences and move towards something approaching a sustainable lifestyle. That to me would be the easiest and most obvious way in which we can begin to fulfil our responsibilities. That would certainly be a step on the more practical side, in terms of the religious I think a proper inclusion of the gods in our lives. Perhaps moving beyond devotional work and into something else.
I think that might be enough for now, I do think I should really consider a bit more means by which I can work towards, well, living the lives of the gods. I also need to go on a bit about the manner in which the sovereignty ritual is carried out; when, how and do I need to look into purchasing myself a nice little pony?

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Horse, the Land and Sovereignty II


Before the gods that made the gods
Had seen their sunrise pass,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale
Was cut out of the grass


G.K. Chesterton; The Ballad of the White Horse


* * *

I have opted to skip one of these blogasms; I was going to prepare a piece on the religo-magical appearance of the horse in Indo-European cultures. Instead I am going to jump right in to the part that really interests me more than anything at the moment.

I am also going to make a confession, for this first bit I am going to rely on the scholarship of Miranda Green and Alexei Kondratiev. Essentially I am taking from both of them the notion that to the 'Celts' horses were associated with sovereignty and the goddess of sovereignty. Proper, primary sources for this are out there I am sure but right now I don’t have the time to trawl that much. Refs. for them will be at the end, do you can look it up and blame them if it is wrong :)

So, this is perhaps the most contentious part of this mini series of blogasms on horses; the Horse Sacrifice.



The Horse Sacrifice

The idea of this fascinates me; on the surface it seems bizarre; to actually sacrifice and kill the very animal which represents sovereignty and the goddess who confers it. And yet it appears in at least 3 Indo-European cultures to differing extents and finds itself echoed in a couple of others.

The Ashvamedha
this Vedic ritual involves the sacrifice of a stallion by the king (and only the king) in order to bestow glory, sovereignty and prosperity to the kingdom. The stallion in question is chosen and set free to roam for a year during which time it is followed by soldiers who ensure it is unimpeded and comes to no harm. After a year it is brought back, various rituals and hymns are sung and the stallion sacrificed;

Steed, from thy body, of thyself, sacrifice and accept thyself.
Thy greatness can be gained by none but thee.

Queen ritually simulates sex with the corpse and spends the night with it. Interestingly this last part is also carried out during the sacrifice of a human.

The Irish Coronation
This story is rather familiar to most people and comes from Gerald Cambrensis. The would be king mates with a white mare which is then killed and cooked. The King then bathes in the broth and eats it, along with all those gathered. In this way sovereignty is conferred.

The Roman Equus October Ceremony
The horse on the right hand side of the chariot which wins a series of races is sacrificed and dismembered; the head and tail are sent to different locations within the city. During the sacrifice it is dedicated to Mars

Scandinavian
The last(ish) pagan king of Sweden during his inauguration had a mare killed, dismembered and eaten. Its blood was sprinkled upon the sacred tree at Uppsala.

* * *

All of these rituals and commonalities are supposedly derived from a Proto-Indo-European myth involving a King-Horse Goddess-Sovereignty complex and the birth of a divine pair of twins (one of the possibly being a horse), that we find such a strong echo of this PIE myth in the Mabinogi is heartening.

At some point over the next week I will do a final piece on pulling all of this together and working it into personal practice.


Miranda Green 1992 - Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend
Alexei Kondratiev 1997 - Basic Celtic Deity Types
Georges Dumezil 1988 - Mitra - Varuna
Ceisiwr Serith 2007 - Deep Ancestors

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Bock.. bock..


Entirely irrelevant I guess but what the hell.

I have chickens! Three youngish ladies now living in my back garden. I could have gone down the route of naming after the gods in some sort of weird honorary thing, but went instead for something far more sensible; names I liked. Sometimes when naming after the gods they take on certain... characteristics; a friend’s iguana was called Innana and turned out to be rather violent. Loki and Thor the bearded dragons tuned out after several years to be Loki and Thora. You get my drift.

So I went with Geri (the one with a ginger head), Mama Cass and for black humour sake; Myra Hendley who is a bleached blonde colour. Yeah I know, very inappropriate. As it happens Geri is very eprky, friendly and totally at ease, Mama Cass is very vocal; always burbling and clucking away and Myra is well, bonkers; very flighty, prone to spazzing out.

the ever lovely Geri

three girls after the SuperCorn

Mama Cass(erole)


the evil eye from Myra Hendley

Anyway, if you are going down the deity route, what on earth do you name chickens?

Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Horse, the Land and Soverignty I

I think perhaps it is time to focus on something and work through it thoroughly; explore options, explore ideas and avenues and create a working modern synthesis. Lately things have been a bit up and down; busy with work and life in general and also with gathering wild food and planning for the immanent arrival of the girls (I am at long last getting some hens, be prepared for lots of blogasms on the subject of chickens!).

I keep on saying it is time to work on theurgical matters and this Horse-Land-Sovereignty things is a conscious effort to do that in a sensible and focused way, especially when sovereignty is so important. I have idea as to the role of sovereignty and it's place, but really the questions in my head are; how do I incorporate the notions and rituals of sovereignty into my practice and most of all, if sovereignty is something granted by the Goddess of the Land, who gets it and how do we measure worthiness to hold it?


Anyway, here is the beginning of a longer term project which I am going to enthral/bore you with;




The Domestication of the Horse



The first human interactions with horses that we can find and talk of with some certainty stem from palaeolithic cave art, some 30,000 years ago. These cave drawings such as can be seen at sites such as in the south of France most likely represent animals from the environment which were hunted for meat. It isn't until much later than this, around 4000BCE that we can be sure that horses were domesticated and used in a manner that suggests more than simple food rearing. In about 4000BCE in the Khazakstan region horse teeth can be found which display dental pathologies suggestive of bitting; pretty much essential if you are to ride a horse. Around the same time there are changes in finds, butchery style etc. which corroborate the changing attitude to horses. We also start finding horse shaped artefacts that cold be considered objects of status or power such as horse head maces, and the first finds of horse remains within human burials. Around 2500BCE in the Hungary region in what is known as the Bell Beaker culture there are noticeable changes in horse morphology demonstrating some degree of selective breeding and shifting of physiology towards human purpose.



At around 4200 to 4000 BCE, massive swathes of settlements in the Balkans and Danube valley stop being occupied, mines are abandoned and what was known as 'Old Europe' comes to an end. It has been suggested this was due to an influx of horse riding Indo-European people bringing in new weapons, new styles of travel and new culture in which the horse feature strongly.


David W. Anthony. 2007. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World.